WICKFORD FLOOD - NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS (10)

Human stories of the flood

Recently I was able to copy a friend’s newspaper cuttings from the time of the Wickford floods. I think these cuttings should be shared with others.

ARTICLE FROM 7 SEPTEMBER 1958

To-Day It’s Cold Comfort Dinner

From Ron Mount, WICKFORD, Saturday.

“I am speaking from a phone box in the High Street of this sleepy Essex village. But the locals no longer call it High Street. They call it Gum Boot Alley. For Wickford is among the places hardest hit by the great storm.

Even now, 24 hours after a tornado swept across England, we are surrounded by water.

Practically everybody you see here is in gumboots. All are tired and muddy. Many have eaten nothing but cold food since last night. And there will be few hot Sunday dinners tomorrow – it’ll be Cold Comfort Dinner day all right, though lots of folk are preparing to ‘muck in’ together.

In many houses the furniture is ruined. The shiny new TV sets are gone with the wind and the rain. People have to wade to get anywhere. Most of their telephones are not working. But what hits you when you talk to them? They are cheerful. It’s like the war days. Everybody is helping everybody else. To-night, surrounded by a shambles, they are having a drink and laughing about it.

They are laughing about the man who, in the middle of last night, saw a pig swimming in his back garden. He waded out and took the animal upstairs. He, his family and the pig are still there in one of the bedrooms.

They are laughing about the shopkeeper seen draining jars of waterlogged sweets into the gutter.

They are laughing about the groups of young lads swimming away from stranded buses standing in 5ft. of flood-water, with their clothes bundled on top of their heads.

And they are laughing about the wedding of pretty 23-year-old Josephine Fosh, at Wickford Church this afternoon. There were deep floods between the church and the reception hall. In all their finery the young couple – her husband is 23-year-old Leonard Eve, of Corringham, Essex – clambered up the 15 feet railway embankment and escorted by police, walked half a mile along the line to reach the hall. To-night they are all muddy. But they are triumphant. And the reception is still going strong.

The people here are joking, too, about the man and wife in an outlying cottage with 4ft. of water on the ground floor who are refusing to leave their first-floor bedroom. With them are their 18 children. Finally, they are joking about the man who spent all last night swimming from house to house and rescuing people. When he arrived at one house – dressed only in underpants – the man who lives there said: “You haven’t a match, I suppose?”

All day a horde of enthusiastic youngsters in swim suits and tiny pleasure boats, brought from a boating lake at Billericay, have been running a very unofficial ferry service through the flood waters.

By wading and swimming they have helped people to and from the few shops open.

Between the laughs there are the stories that show how the ordinary man and woman calmly react to trouble and strife. From all sides you hear of men who spent the night swimming from house to house to rescue people.

There is the story of Mrs. Lily Molineaux, wife of the publican of the Rising Sun at Billericay, who, after closing time last night made tea for stranded motorists till 4.30 am. There are stories of the men and women of the Civil Defence and W.V.S.

I talked to some of them at a rest centre they had established in Wickford’s new Secondary School. Many were wet to the waist. All day they have been out in a DUKW with hot tea for marooned householders. In the school they have been serving bacon and eggs.

Still At Work.
One of them is Mrs Bessie Mock. To-night she is a warden. Normally she is a commercial traveller’s wife – just an ordinary housewife. She was called out at 11.30 last night and now, nearly 24 hours later, she is still cheerfully at work.

At the Castle pub Mr. Albert Clark, the manager, showed me the door to his 9 ft. deep cellar. It is completely flooded and beneath the water is about £1,000 worth of stock. Only a few hours ago his brand new lounge bar furniture was floating. To-night it is business as usual in the public bar. And soon, I am quite sure, it will be business as usual for the rest of Wickford.

It takes more than the storm of the century to get these people down.”

A personal comment on this article: – I was at school with Dennis Fosh.  I wonder if Josephine Fosh, the bride, was.

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